The UK works for the people of Scotland. That’s the clear, factual finding in the latest GERS publication from the Scottish Government’s own top economists. We make up 8.2% of the UK population, but 9.2% of UK public spending is right here in Scotland.
Every nation and region in the UK benefits from the pooling and sharing of both resources and risk. That has been vital in the past during difficult times such as Covid or when oil revenues collapsed – ensuring that Scotland could maintain or increase spending on hospitals, schools, and other public services despite a downturn in taxes raised.
And when parts of the economy are performing better, such as over the past year when Scots have contributed more in taxes because of oil price rises, we still have even higher public expenditure levels than the UK average. In fact, thanks to the pooling and sharing that takes place, spending per person in Scotland on public services was £2,217 higher than the UK average, which protects our NHS, schools, and communities.
At the same time, we can all take immense pride in the huge contribution that Scotland makes to the UK economy – we are a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators. And because we are part of something larger, it means Edinburgh benefits from being a financial powerhouse which London complements rather than competes with, our famous universities in cities like Glasgow and Dundee have access to UK-wide research funding, the north-east taps into the UK supply chain for both oil and gas and renewables, and our world-renowned food and drink from the Highlands and throughout Scotland heads south unhindered by unnecessary border checks.
Of course, there are major challenges facing Scotland as well. Just look at our NHS, decimated after years of SNP mismanagement. To put the GERS figures into sharp focus – it costs £17.6 billion to run our entire NHS every year, and yet Scotland’s fiscal deficit for the past year was more than that at £19.1 billion.
That simply wouldn’t be sustainable in a separate Scotland. But as part of the UK, we are stronger together, we can invest more in our public services, and we can build a brighter future for all our communities.
Pamela Nash is chief executive of Scotland in Union (this article first appeared in The Scotsman on 16/08/2023)